Cost-conscious smart marinas

Marina operators around the world are striving to embrace smarter working practices using digital technology. How can suppliers help? Marina World asked a selection of industry experts to give guidance by answering a couple of pertinent questions.

Q: What do you think is the single most important thing that marina owners/operators need to do to pave the way for a smarter marina? And how can they keep costs down in the adoption of smart technology?

Vance Young, Scribble Software/MARINAGO
A: Operating a marina or marine facility in the post-COVID era has revealed unprecedented challenges and created the ever-important need to operate a smarter operation. A key challenge affecting nearly all industries revolves around retaining quality staffing and the marina industry is no exception. Customer demand seems to rise while the pool of good, qualified personnel appears to be decreasing. With this challenge, it is ever so important to implement less time-consuming and smarter operation procedures.
Scribble Software completely understands this dilemma and has invested time and resources to implement smarter technologies in our cloud-based marina management solutions. We know that many marinas are operating with fewer employees, so one of our goals is to create technology that allows the end customers to perform tasks that would normally be performed by marina staff. While this may sound strange at first, many operations are ideal for the end customer if marinas make use of features such as:
• Online and self-guiding bookings and reservations
• An online customer portal where customers can sign in and perform self-operations, such as reservations, invoice payments, adding payment methods, setting up ACH information and keeping track of account activity
• Easy to use mobile QR code fuel pay-at-pump activity
• Instant-Pay invoices via email and/or text messaging
• Payment receipt delivery via email and/or text messaging
All of these technological options have been made available in the MARINAGO Office cloud-based marina management solution. The mobile QR code fuel pay-at-pump system has proven to be a key contribution to operating a smarter marina. Our “smart” fuel server allows customers to use their mobile phones and easily scan a QR code on a fuel dispenser. This pulls up the MARINAGO Fuel system on the phone and guides the customer through purchasing and dispensing fuel. This automated and end customer-centric system is a key aspect in converting a marina to a smarter operation.

Irena Cadez

Irena Cadez

Irena Cadez, Marina Master
A: With over three decades of global experience supporting marina management worldwide, the Marina Master team recognises the transformative impact of smart technology on the future of marina operations and management.
The single most crucial step for marina owners/operators in embracing a smarter approach is to automate and digitise marina processes extensively. This entails deploying automated and adaptive services and facilities that can be remotely accessed and managed via digital platforms, accessible from any device. This shift allows marina staff to redirect their focus towards meaningful client communication, nurturing empowered marina-client relationships and fostering an environment of superior customer service.
Additionally, our myMarina mobile app enhances smart customer service by providing marina clients with convenient access to services and information, ensuring a seamless experience. A smart marina requires intelligent technology, well-trained staff and adept customer service, all while upholding safety and data privacy.
As an all-in-one support solution, we don’t merely provide software; we evolve alongside smart marinas, offering flexibility, ongoing consultation and reliable ongoing support to adapt to the dynamic needs and trends of the marina industry.
Smart staff within a smart marina must possess a robust understanding of smart technology, excellent communication skills, strong problem-solving abilities and a willingness to learn and adapt. Our collaborations with Certified Marina Managers (CMMs) around the globe have proven highly beneficial, fostering knowledge exchange and the implementation of innovative ideas from different regions.
Smart technology not only reduces costs but also promotes sustainability and eco-friendliness. Manual services are now automated and paperless, consuming fewer resources and requiring fewer staff. As Darrell Barnett CMM, marina manager at Soldiers Point Marina in Australia, attests: “The software not only improves day-to-day operations but also saves me thousands of dollars annually in operational costs.”

Bas Durieux

Bas Durieux

Bas Durieux, Seijsener
A: One of the most transformative technologies today for a smarter marina is the system, which revolutionises how marina services are accessed and managed. allows guests to independently start services like docking, electricity, water, and more. It also provides them with direct insight into their usage. Guests only pay for the services they actually use through a digital environment. This not only reduces the need for physical interactions but also streamlines the management of utility services, optimising both cost and usage.
Our system gives marina operators complete oversight of who is using the facilities and who has paid. We handle the invoicing and ensure they receive the payments, significantly simplifying the administration of the marina.
However, the journey towards a smarter marina isn’t just about digital upgrades. It’s about maintaining a balance with reliable ‘analogue’ infrastructure that’s easily accessible and manageable. That’s why we focus on solutions with a low total cost of ownership – durable, dependable, and maintenance-friendly.
At marinas where we have introduced, the impact is clearly noticeable. Boat owners and guests enjoy a smoother, more streamlined service interaction, which significantly increases the likelihood of them returning.
Adopting smart solutions like is essential for marinas aiming to meet contemporary needs and prepare for future challenges. This system not only simplifies life for guests but also propels facilities forward, especially as we advance towards more sustainable and electronically powered boating paradigms.

Brent Wierson

Brent Wierson

Brent Wierson, Molo Marina Management/Stellar Software
A: In the ever changing landscape of marina management, leveraging smart technology has become paramount to ensuring operational efficiency and enhancing customer experiences. There’s been an uptick in marina management software companies focusing on the pain points of marina owners and providing technical solutions to solve them.
Companies like Molo Marina Management and Stellar Software take a unique approach to envisioning the future for marinas and how various aspects can benefit from integration of smart solutions, some of which we’ve included below:
1 Dock management and monitoring – one way companies like Molo are getting ahead is by providing monitoring of dock occupancy, vessel arrivals and departures, and meter tracking for electricity, gas and water usage. Rental software platforms like Stellar have also adopted their own version of dock management with features like their ‘Dock Attendant’ tool, which provides a digitised process for launching and returning rental boats to ensure smooth operations and compliance.
2 Customer services and experience – smart technology empowers boat rental and club businesses to provide customers with instant access to information about marina facilities, membership details and rental options. Additionally, automated booking and payment systems are a great way to simplify operations, enhancing customer satisfaction and relieving administrative burden.
3 Business operations and management – integrated management solutions for things like inventory management (POS), billing and financial reporting can enhance efficiency and accuracy. Data analytics tools take it a step further by offering insight into customer behaviour, market trends and operational performance, empowering marina managers with the information needed for informed decision-making and strategic planning.

John Barbanas

John Barbanas

John Barbanas, Successful Software
A: In order for marina owners/operators to be able to move towards a smarter marina, they need to invest in flexible digital infrastructure. This infrastructure should support interconnected systems that will be an amalgamation of hardware, Internet of Things (IoT) and software solutions.
The ideal infrastructure will gather data from various data sources. By having a solid digital foundation, marina owners/operators can harness the power of data analytics, automation and monitoring to optimise operations, improve overall efficiency and ensure positive word of mouth from their customers.
To keep costs down in the adoption of smart technology, the management team should invest in modular and scalable systems. This will allow the gradual adoption of smart technologies based on the current needs and budget of the business. When the budget permits, the management will be able to add the next module that will make its operation smarter.
Moreover, choosing smart solutions that can seamlessly integrate with existing software and hardware will minimise integration costs and reduce the learning curve.

George Spiers

George Spiers

George Spiers, Konnected Technology
A: In our experience at Konnected Technology the single most important upgrade or smart improvement that marina operators need to adopt within possible smart marina technology starts with investing in comprehensive internet network with coverage over the entire facility.
As most smart technology is cloud based, a strong, reliable internet system is paramount regardless of the smart technology deployed. In the age where internet access has become as essential as water, light and food, the trend is high demand for premium internet in marinas. Also comprehensive internet is the first step to implementing further smart marina solutions.
In terms of cost recovery, upfront investment costs can also be recovered by passing along the cost, along with the benefits of premium Wi-Fi to boat owners. If implemented, premium services can create a new revenue stream for marinas. Recognising this shift, we acknowledge that premium Wi-Fi is not just a luxury but an essential service that defines a marina experience.

Idan Cohen

Idan Cohen

Idan Cohen, Pick a Pier
A: The future of marinas lies in their evolution into smart, interconnected hubs that optimise decision-making and provide valuable insights. By collecting data digitally and methodically, marinas can comprehensively understand their operations and make more informed decisions. While there are immediate learnings and actions marinas can take from day one, the long term, compounding effect of this effort would be game changing.
With today’s technology and tools, the initial investment is no longer a barrier. Instead of expensive hardware and complicated physical solutions, marinas can now access and leverage proprietary and external data in new ways. Connecting the dots and combining all stakeholders, while utilising future planning as part of the sharing economy and circular economy principles, will yield the best results for our industry.
Smart marinas must also look beyond their own operations and communicate with other industry stakeholders to share and receive data. This approach also applies to marina chains, which may excel at internal communication but often lack external data sharing capabilities.
At Pick a Pier, we’re working with partners to establish harmonisation within marinas and across the industry, making data collection more valuable for all. We invite you to join us in this collaborative effort, as we can drive the growth of smart marinas worldwide.

Sean Cocks

Sean Cocks

Sean Cocks, Pacsoft International
A: There are now plenty of real-world examples demonstrating ways smart technologies can save marinas time and money, make life easier for customers, and drive positive sustainability and environmental outcomes.
My number one piece of advice when beginning your smart-technology journey is to educate yourself on what solutions are out there, including their capabilities and limitations. Many solutions appear the same at first glance, but if you get down to the detail there can be significant differences with major implications.
For example, two systems may operate similarly, in terms of how you capture and input data, but one may deliver much richer information back. This could be real-time occupancy reporting, detailed financial forecasting, or even customer revenue analysis. If this rich information is coupled with intelligent automation, you will gain actionable insights while also saving your team time and freeing them up to do what they do best.
The foundation underpinning a modern ‘smart marina’ is clever marina management software with functional integration across all parts of your marina, allowing a single point for holistic management.
Our own PacsoftNG software, available on-site or in the cloud, is an ideal hub for this purpose. Its integrations across membership, point of sale, finance and billing, food and beverage, security, and fuel and utility systems allow you to gain valuable insights and manage all your smart technologies from a single place.
A final word of caution: we all want our software to be ‘simple’ but that can sometimes come at a cost if a technology’s shortcomings force you and your team to add time-intensive manual processes to compensate. Picking the right technology up front, with well-thought-out automation and a comprehensive feature set, will save you time and money in the long run.

Mark Read

Mark Read

Mark Read, Smarter Technologies
A: Deploying a real-time IoT network across a site is the first step towards a smart marina both afloat and ashore. Wireless retrofitted devices monitor and track anything, so you can improve efficiencies and drive down costs. Orion is the largest unified IoT platform available: simple, easy, and cost-effective.
This secure network allows you to gather real-time data, track, monitor and control (turn things on/off etc.) without sim-cards or Wi-Fi. This one-system approach to service multiple requirements mitigates costs. Using standard software platforms and apps avoids costly IT development.
Whilst our hardware and software platforms offer monitoring solutions that improve customer experiences, many business modules focus specifically on reducing expenses and improving margins.
Retrofitting our MID-approved meters to automate billing and control access to utilities removes the cost of managing utilities and prevents losses. Customer-facing apps allow payment and real-time visibility and reporting tools demonstrate ESG compliance.
The costs of managing compliance of marine businesses can be huge. Our platforms fully automate these functions, removing the human cost and only alerting you when necessary. Examples include temperature monitoring, safety equipment, defibrillators and Legionella compliance. Our geo-fence platforms also help you control parking, track assets, know when a berth is occupied, check washroom temperatures, water or fuel levels, and where your visitors or contractors are.
Many of our solutions can be delivered on a zero-capex basis, enabling you to get all the benefits of efficiencies and cost saving from day one without the usual upfront costs.
The key to smart marinas lies in the simplicity and effectiveness of real-time data collection, intelligent analysis, and ease of reporting.


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